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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Kill 'em, you bum," said the little old lady.
Here the old lady's protagonist, the young man evidently named 6, missed what I thought was an extraordinarily difficult shot, a low and hard and evil shot which sent him sprawling spread-eagled against the screen in a hurtling effort to return it. "Look at the jerk," said the old lady. "He coulda got it. He lay down. Get up, you pigeon." She tore up a pari-mutuel ticket, letting the pieces flutter down through the cigar smoke.
A sportsman shouts
"Money corrupts," I said. "But there's still plenty of fans. Listen. You'll hear 'em. They shout in Spanish." As if in magic answer, I became aware of a muted sound behind me. I nudged my wife and turned around to single out the chanter, who proved to be a young bald man in a sports jacket. "Listen," I said. We listened. As more teams were eliminated one by one, his incantation became gradually louder, and by the time there were just two teams left it was perfectly plain what he was saying. He was saying "Miss it. Miss it. Miss it," over and over to the opponents of his team. Finally one of his players shared the fate of the unhappy No. 6, crashing into the side wall at the apex of a high and vain leap at the speeding ball.
"He never even tried," said the bald man, varying his chant. "They make it look good. They can get any shot if they want." This was not the jai alai I knew, and I felt it was time to defend the old order. "Why's he lying there bleeding?" I asked. "Act," said the bald man, smirking. "They all do it. They're all actors. They rehearse, like wrestlers. They all got money on the game. You want they should be honest too?"
"How about The Rule with Teeth?"
"Come off it, buddy. It's all fixed. It has to be. It's just a big man race. You bet on men, you get a fix. What's gonna keep a guy from laying down for a buddy once in a while?"
"How do you know?" asked my wife, an incisive sort.
"Hell, I don't know. Nobody knows. You can't know. That's the trouble. Hell, it's a Spanish game, Americans can't even understand it." He tapped his program. " 'Quiniela. Quiniela Exacta.' Even the bets are in Spanish. They're all foreigners out there. You can't expect 'em to be honest, can you?"
"Why do you bet?" said my wife.